Louisiana State House Backs Bill Protecting Incapacitated Patients

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 7, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Louisiana State House Backs Bill Protecting Incapacitated Patients Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
June 7, 2005

Baton Rouge, LA (LifeNews.com) — A Louisiana bill that would protect disabled or incapacitated patients like Terri Schiavo has received approval from the state House. The measure would prohibit the removal of feeding tubes from such patients who are unable to make their own medical decisions.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Gary Beard, a Republican, presumes that any patient who couldn’t make his own decision about receiving food and water should be entitled to such care unless they had an advance directive stipulating otherwise.

Current state law allows feeding tubes to be removed if there is not any language in a living will saying not to do so.

Beard said the measure is needed to prevent the starvation death of Louisiana patients in similar situations as Terri Schiavo.

The measure, House Bill 675, had previously been approved House Committee on Health and Welfare on a 10-3 vote

Last month, the Senate Judiciary Committee backed a similar measure on a unanimous vote, but also added an amendment to the bill that could threaten its survival.

Sen. Cleo Fields, a Democrat, added a potentially damaging amendment to require the state to pay for the medical care of patients who have not authorized a feeding tube removal and whose families are unable to pay for medical care.

Some lawmakers may oppose the bill citing financial concerns.

The committee heard testimony from Bobby Schindler, Terri’s brother. He asked legislators to adopt the proposal and talked about Terri’s death.

"She suffered a slow death," he said. "Dehydration is not something I can ever describe to you."

"Every life is sacred, and we need to treat life that way. We should err on the side of human life," Schindler added. He said the bill would help other families avoid having to go through the "absolutely horrific" trials the Schindlers did during Terri’s painful 13 day starvation death.

Pro-life groups such as the Louisiana Right to Life Federation and Louisiana Family Forum back the legislation, SB 40. The Louisiana Hospital Association and the American Civil Liberties Union opposed the bill.